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Inference from academic texts in children with autism

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Children and adults with autism do worse on tests of inferences than controls. This fact has been attributed to poor language skills, a tendency to focus on detail, and poor social understanding. This study examines whether children with autism with age-appropriate language and cognitive skills have difficulties drawing inferences from academic, expository texts. Sixteen children with autism and a control group of twenty-four children were matched on language skills, nonverbal cognitive ability, and auditory and nonverbal working memory and compared on their responses to questions that require inferences. The children with autism scored significantly lower on inference questions than the controls. Although language skills explain much of the variance in inference scores, diagnostic background also made a contribution. The results are discussed in the light of theories of suppression of irrelevant information and recognition of text writers’ communicative intention.

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Keywords: Autism Spectrum Disorders; attribution of mental states; inference; suppression of irrelevant information; text comprehension; weak central coherence

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: December 31, 2018

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